Anyone who's spent time working in a trade association is probably familiar with that uneasy feeling that occurs when one of the organization's most prominent members gets upset and starts throwing its weight around. That feeling comes from the knowledge that if you find the member to be in the wrong and you have to stand up to its representatives, then you risk losing them as a member, and their hefty percentage of the budget as well. On the other hand if you cave in to their demands you lose credibility with the rest of the members, and in all likelihood you'll lose plenty of them as members as a result. All told it's a very uncomfortable situation, but ten out of ten times it's better to stand up for the principles of the association that were, after all, established by consensus of the membership.
For an example of exactly how NOT to handle a prominent member throwing a hissy fit we need only look to the British Institute of Innkeeping Scotland's handling of a pissy member at its annual awards ceremony. From the post on Boing Boing:
BrewDog is a spunky craft brewer in Scotland. Diageo is a titanic owner of bar chains, a kind of Wal*Mart of booze. The British Institute of Innkeeping is their mutual trade association. Last Sunday, the BII's independent judges awarded BrewDog a prize for Bar Operator of the Year. When Diageo found out — just ahead of the ceremony — that they hadn't won the prize, they threw a tantrum and said that they would cease all sponsorship of BII events unless the prize was given to them. So BrewDog — who'd been told in advance that they'd won — sat at their table at the banquet with jaws on their chests as Diageo's name was read out by the announcer, and representatives from Diageo got up on stage to accept an award whose plaque clearly said "BREWDOG: BAR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR."
Of course this blew up in the association's face and it did no favors for the "prominent" member either. The folks at Brewdog, the offended party, are running with it on their blog and in the process highlight how the head of an organization such as BII can begin repairing its image after such a mistake:
On Tuesday, 2 days after the award, I (James) took a phone call from Kenny Mitchell, Chairman of the BII in Scotland and Chairman of the Award Committee explaining the situation. To directly quote Kenny:
"We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened. The awards have to be an independent process and BrewDog were the clear winner’
‘Diageo (the main sponsor) approached us at the start of the meal and said under no circumstances could the award be given to BrewDog. They said if this happened they would pull their sponsorship from all future BII events and their representatives would not present any of the awards on the evening.’
We were as gobsmacked as you by Diageo’s behaviour. We made the wrong decision under extreme pressure. We should have stuck to our guns and gave the award to BrewDog."
Here's the part where they have some fun:
As for Diageo, once you cut through the glam veneer of pseudo corporate responsibility this incident shows them to be a band of dishonest hammerheads and dumb ass corporate freaks. No soul and no morals, with the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a wart hog.
Perhaps more tellingly it is an unwitting microcosm for just how the beer industry is changing and just how scared and jealous the gimp-like establishment are of the craft beerrevolutionaries.
We would advise them to drink some craft beer. To taste the hops and live the dream. It is hard to be a judas goat when you are drinking a Punk IPA.
Walk tall, kick ass and learn to speak craft beer.
Those last two paragraphs are sage advice for us all – right up there with "Live long and prosper."